Book Review: The Anthropocene Reviewed

The Anthropocene Reviewed (Signed Edition): Essays on a ...

John Green is a talented writer, and is curious about many things. Both of those skills come to the surface often in the short essays that make up Green’s non-fiction collection entitled The Anthropocene Reviewed, one of the first books I have read that was written during the Pandemic and is not afraid to make that time period of writing very visible (and which I appreciated).

Subtitled “Essays on a Human-Centered Planet,” this collection of writing spans the observational world from Halley’s Comet to Diet Dr Pepper to sunsets to Piggly Wiggly stores to The Mountain Goats to the world’s largest ball of paint. That just scratches the surface of the pieces here, which originated in one form or another with Green’s podcast. (Green is also the well-known author of young adult fiction like The Fault In Our Stars and often does video-blogging with his brother, Hank).

Green never shies away from his own struggles with mental illness, and seeks to understand the ways the complexities of the modern world challenge and stress him out to exhaustion (at times) and breakdowns (at others), and how he finds comfort in the small moments of the world, too, and the people around him. This balance between explaining the larger picture of a world of complexity and noticing the moments one needs to survive become the emotional pivot points of these essays.

What is the Anthropocene? It’s the name for our current geological age that we humans are in right now as we impact the planet with all of our use and misuse, with all of our potential for good and all of our potential for harm. Green uses this term to frame his thoughts on what it means to be a human right now, and not just right now, but … right now … in the midst of a Pandemic, which he never shies away from (and hopefully, those references won’t make this collection only pieces for these days … I appreciated the references to how our lives were disrupted by Covid).

Green’s writing voice, too, is like a friend, as if the reader and writer were having breakfast and Green poses a question, and then invites you in to follow the thread of the answer. Each chapter ends with Green giving something a rating of one to five stars (playing off the need in the modern world to rate everything as social practice). So, for example, viral meningitis gets one star while the beauty of sycamore trees gets five stars.

I give Green’s book five stars.

Peace (in the world we live in),
Kevin

Slice of Life: And So The Year Begins …

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

 

 

 

On this day
before the
first days
of school,
the dreamers
in us remember
long nights of
wonder and
worry, the
unknown spinning
us forward
into something
unfocused
and still a
bit blurry;
each year begins
with a single
step of pause,
then comes
the hurry

Peace (at the start of it all),
Kevin

Pondering Scenius and the Collective Inspiration

UGA's Medical Robotics Lab: Mission Possible « The ...

My good friend, Michelle King, introduced this concept of “scenius” (from music producer Brian Eno) to a three day gathering of educators, park rangers and environmental educational partners that I was part of. We were all on Zoom, alas, but the facilitators were thoughtful in the ways they used the chat as a generative channel for feedback, support and questions to be generated throughout small group presentations and discussions. The chatter flowed.

When someone mentioned how powerful that chat-side sharing was, Michelle (who was joining in as a featured guest poet/educator/creativity instigator) shared Eno’s term of Scenius to mean that a collective working together within a common theme or “scene” has an elevated power to it. Genius might refer to a single person; Scenius refers to many people, together, in a single “scene” with shared passions.

It’s a term that has surfaced through others, too, such as Austin Kleone, who has done a deep dive into the idea. In an interview, Eno explained that he realized that what he had learned in art school about individual genius working solo was more likely the result of the cultural scene that created the possibility for an artist to flourish. It didn’t likely happen in isolation.

What really happened was that there was sometimes very fertile scenes involving lots and lots of people – some of them artists, some of them collectors, some of them curators, thinkers, theorists, people who were fashionable and knew what the hip things were – all sorts of people who created a kind of ecology of talent. And out of that ecology arose some wonderful work. — Brian Eno

I am thinking how this concept connects to Connected Learning and Affinity Groups and other concepts in which the larger energy of creativity sparks individuals to raise their game, take a chance, and find others for collaboration. For me, I think of CLMOOC, and DS106, and the National Writing Project, and the organization that was hosting the gathering, Parks in Every Classroom.

Also, of course, I wonder how this conceptual understanding of how we learn within given cultural moments might translate into how educators approach learners in schools.

scenius | THIN|SILENCE

Scenius. Interesting.

Peace (thinking it),
Kevin

 

Graphic Memoir Review: Almost American Girl

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha [in Booklist] | BookDragon

Robin Ha’s memoir of moving to America from South Korea as a child, and not knowing a lick of English, is a testament to not just perseverance, but also, to each person finding some way forward. Ha’s graphic memoir — Almost American Girl — is part of the new and appreciated wave of new diverse voices in the field.

Ha’s single mother brought her unexpectedly to Alabama when Ha was a child, and she knew no English or much about American culture, and so, she struggled with loneliness and language, until years later, when Ha stumbled upon a group of other teens making comics and stories at a comic book store. This changed everything for her. These scenes reminded me of the groups of young people I used to see huddled around comics at our local comic store when my eldest son was younger and we visited the comic store regularly. The clusters of kids I noticed there are also what encouraged me to integrate comic making into my sixth grade classroom.

For Ha, the connection to art gave her anchor and friendship, and her story reminds us, as teachers, that we need to find and nurture the passions of our young people, and show patience and compassion to immigrant students making their way through the American landscape.

One element that surfaces early and remains is Ha’s love and frustration with her mother, whose a strong personality for the most part but then Ha begins to see her mother with more compassion and fragility.This emerges in the story slowly but powerfully.

The artwork here is fine, and I love that Ha was able to bring some of the comics and graphic arts she made as a kid into the story.

Peace (in the panel),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Sometimes, A Tree Falls

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

The hurricane on Sunday and into Monday was not as bad as it could have been here, but we still had strong winds and lots of rain.  The river down the street is raging. And, alas, a tree fell from a neighbor’s yard smack dab into our yard, right over our fence line.

Tree FallI know this happens. It’s nature. It’s part of life. It was a storm. It could have been a lot worse.

We’re lucky it didn’t hit the house and we’re lucky that I moved a glass-top table we usually have near that part of the yard for outdoor gatherings. No one was hurt. It’s still frustrating because it was a lovely tree, providing some nice shade on summer days, and now I am calling around, trying to find a tree service who can help remove it.

I guess if we learned one thing last year, it is to go with the flow, adjust as needed, and keep things moving forward. I’ll be on the phone today again, with tree companies, and chatting with my neighbor about her lost tree and my damaged fence.

Peace (rooted),
Kevin

 

 

After the Storm: Poem

rain drops“rain drops” by Rex Roof is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 Shoe-barren feet sink
into summer grass
and ground, softened
by surge of storm,
exploring empty streets

We wander the remains
of the day’s fallen rains,
dancing our way
to each singing drain:
the weather, as rhythmic beat

Peace (after the storms),
Kevin